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Looking forward: Libertarians

Jim Henley has some sharp words for libertarians regarding the Homeland Security Act and the Information Awareness Office.

If you imagine yourselves as part of some coalition, ask yourself what you’re getting for your trouble. You lost HSD. You lost USA-PATRIOT. You get IAO. An independent 9/11 commission? Gone. A lot of you favor liberal rules on therapeutic cloning. Think you’ll get that from this Congress? Is there anything whatsoever that neolibertarians favor that the rest of the Republican coalition does not where you have gotten or expect to get your way? Any case where the Administration said “We’ve got to give the libertarians this?” Or where you can imagine them saying it? Remember, the war doesn’t count. The neocons want it and the Christian Coalition wants it. They matter. Ditto for the tax cut. I’m talking about something that neolibertarians hold dear that neocons and/or the Christian Right oppose, where the will of the neolibertarians prevails.

I’m here every day. You can get back to me.

A proposition: Neolibertarians are to the Republican Party what African-Americans are to the Democratic Party – taken for granted because they have nowhere else to go.

I’d argue that African-Americans get a lot more out of the Democrats than neolibs get out of the GOP – if nothing else, there’s a lot more black Democratic officeholders than there are neolib Republican officeholders (my personal count of the latter starts and ends with Ron Paul) – but that’s a quibble. My purpose here is to suggest that it’s high time the Democrats offered a legitimate alternative to the Republicans for people like Jim.

We can start right here with Homeland Security and the IAO. I believe there’s going to eventually be a backlash against the curtailment of civil rights that has gone part and parcel with the War of Terror. Sooner or later, people are going to start to ask if the security they’ve supposedly gained in trade for their freedoms is really worth it. If there’s one thing I want the Democrats to learn from Election 2002, it’s that if you want credibility on an issue you have to get out in front of that issue. You know, lead. Let’s start by calling HSD and the IAO the abominations that they are.

(What’s that you say? The Democrats originally proposed HSD over Team Bush’s objections? So what? The hallmark of George W. Bush’s political career has been to initially oppose something, then take credit for it when it happens anyway. He got the credit for HSD. Go ahead and hand him the bill for it. He’s earned it.)

Once the Dems have started bashing HSD, there are other issues on which they can not only be on the side of the angels but also on the side of the libertarians. Take stem-cell research, which can easily be cast in terms of heroic doctors battling deadly diseases. Or take digital rights management and the CBDTPA. Surely a party that claims to represent “the people” should be able to oppose a law that would allow large corporations to rummage around your personal computer.

The beauty of this approach is that it gives the Dems some appeal to a group that has all but abandoned them – white males – without lurching towards the right. Combine this with an increased focus on the looming budget deficit, and I think you just might have a winner.

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11 Comments

  1. By and large, modern libertarianism is just closer to the GOP than Democrats on the national level. I don’t know that the coalition argument holds, though the comparison with blacks and Dems does.

    I get frustrated with my fellow Republicans when they sit there and say “why do they consistently allow themselves to get taken advantage of?” and then draw some sort of plantation or sheep metaphor.

    Blacks vote Democratic because Democrats represent their interests. Dems would do that even if there were no black caucus to speak of. It’s in keeping with their ideology. I get in a lot of arguments with one particular Republican friend because I insist that black reliance on Democrats isn’t out of blindness, but is purely logical.

    As it stands now, libertarian support for the GOP is as well. What has Bush done for the libertarians? Tax cut. That’s pretty much it and they likely would have done it anyway. However, what did Bill Clinton ever do for libertarians? Substantively, he was bad on the libertarians’ biggest issue (drug war) than Bush has been.

    Ron Paul, Tom Campbell, and Gary Johnson can be described as libertarian-minded Republicans. I can’t think of a single Democrat. Republicans have the tax cut, Dems (so far) have nothing. Score: GOP 2, Dems 0

    Now, just because it is that way doesn’t mean that it has to be. Their are some libertarian-minded folk in the Democratic Party… but I don’t see that in their leadership any more than in GOP leadership (less, actually)… they have to try… and they haven’t been.

  2. That’s my point – this is there for the Dems to grab, and it won’t mean sacrificing any of their core principles. It amazes me sometimes that they don’t see it.

    Of course, on the so-called “War on Drugs”, any Dem who tried to advocate a more libertarian viewpoint would immediately be tarred as soft on crime. The national leadership then feels it has to prove it has crimefighting bonafides, so they get all reactionary. I’d love to see them show some spine, but the price they’d pay right now is pretty high. Maybe some day.

  3. To me, that’s the story with the Dems on a lot of issues. Issues where I am more liberal than the positions they espouse. No doubt that there are more Democrats who believe drugs should be legal (or laws softened at least) than Republicans, but they don’t do anything about it. Republicans, on the other hand, do something about the views they share with libertarians.

    Unless the Democrats want to start taking positions that the general public is wary on… or make them a part of the debate… then their appeal will remain limited.

    Most of the areas where Democrats and libertarians agree with paint the Dems as “soft on crime”, just like Republican and libertarian agreements are “cold-hearted”… but Republicans do them anyway. Democrats don’t.

  4. Alex:

    “Blacks vote Democratic because Democrats represent their interests.”

    I vehemenently disagree with you here, and trust me, I’ve done my homework on this subject. Take this exerpt from “African Americans and the Republican Party, 1996,” a report from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies:

    “[L]ack of [black] support for the Republican party is at least somewhat surprising given the patterns of black public opinion. The Joint Center’s surveys show that on a number of issues black public opinion might seem ripe for Republican appeals. For example, they show that pluralities of African Americans favor no benefit increases for single mothers on welfare who have additional children (49.2 vs. 44.7 percent), and support school vouchers (48.0 vs. 43.5 percent). In fact, there was more support for school vouchers among blacks than among the general population (the Joint Center’s surveys consist of both black and general population samples). Large majorities of African Americans support positions that could not be described as anything but mainstream Republican: 75.8 percent favor school prayer, 73.4 percent favor a $500-per-child federal tax credit, and 72.6 percent favor “3 strikes and you’re out” laws.”

    No group votes 9 to 1 for a single party because they believe it represents their interests because no group is that monolithic. Blacks vote solidly Democratic throughout the United States, without regards to geographic location or economic status. Alex, you cannot explain blacks voting an average of 87.2% since 1964 for the Democratic presidential candidate by their interests alone, especially when a majority of blacks agree with the GOP on key issues.

  5. Owen,

    Blacks distrust big business and are more trusting of government.

    Pluralities may not support an increase in support to welfare mothers with more children, but they oppose the cutting back general support that most Republicans, to one degree or another, support.

    They support an increased federal role in a number of spending areas and entitlements.

    Yes, they have some socially conservative views, but relatively few actually vote solely based on social views.

    Lastly, can it all explain 80-90%? I think it can. You have poor blacks that believe the government can help them. You have wealthier blacks who believe they got where they are because of government help. There are no key issues right now in which they have reason to support Republicans (you could say vouchers, but Bush sold us down the river on that one).

  6. Ginger says:

    Are any of the people in this discussion about the Democrats and black people actually black?

    Just wondering, because a bunch of white people sitting around and talking about “what’s in black people’s interest” like they’re too stupid to figure out what that is on their own is, well, a tad patronizing.

    I’d sure laugh at any man who tells me the other party obviously represent my interests *as a woman* better than the party I voted for and I’m too flaming stupid to get a clue.

  7. Alex,

    You didn’t read the entire report — it deals with very issues you raise:

    In some domains a majority of the black public does not agree with the dominant position espoused by either the GOP or the Democrats. Notwithstanding the dominant view in both parties, more African Americans trust the federal government (26.8 percent) than trust state government (18.4 percent), although a solid 19.3 percent indicated they have no confidence in any level of government. Further, about equal numbers of black Americans think of themselves as liberal, moderate, or conservative. It is surprising then that while over 60 percent of African Americans think of themselves as either conservative or moderate, only 8.7 percent identify themselves as Republicans.

    It doesn’t look to me like there is any consensus within the black community on the matter of whether to trust government, and even so which level of government to support. And furthermore, if you tell me that “wealthier blacks who believe they got where they are because of government help,” then you’re telling me they aren’t voting logically — I seriously doubt it is true that the government got most them where they are. Beyond that, I also doubt that most wealthy and middle-class blacks refuse to give themselves the credit for their standard of living.

    Your analysis might explain support for the Democrats of 60-75%, with a fair amount of variation, but the truth is that there is very little variation between elections in terms of how blacks vote. Even if the Democrats throw up a more moderate candidate, or if the Republicans do the same, the vote doesn’t waver. This isn’t normal, Alex. This kind of monolithic voting never is. Many hardcore liberal Democratic voters went for Nixon in ’72 and Reagan in ’84, but why not blacks?

    You’re trying to rationalize a decidedly irrational situation with a collection of over-generalizations to make black political opinion seem far more united than ANY national polling data justifies. I know you like being middle-of-the-road, arbiter-between-parties kind of guy, but this argument is falling flat on its face because on the issues, blacks are NOT 9 to 1 in agreement with a single party – period. And no other group votes in droves for a single party no matter who the candidate is.

    I’m not seeing a remotely credible argument here. You haven’t explained 87.2%, you’ve just explained how a majority of blacks could generally support the DNC, and that doesn’t get you anywhere.

  8. Ginger,

    I am instinctively inclined to agree, but at some point suppositions need to be made. A number of blacks (though more Hispanics and Vietnamese) work out in the shop and we actually talk politics. Not sure how we got into that habit (I never brought it up, they don’t even know I’m a Republican), but it’s been interesting and I’m taking a lot of what I’m saying from those conversations (and various conversations I had at college with future middle-class blacks). I could be wrong and I’m certainly not going to argue with a black person on why they support Democrats, rather listen and take notes, which is what I do.

    I agree that I’m in no position to tell someone why they vote a certain way (and I get irritated when Republicans do that or people think I’m a GOPer because I’m white and middle class)… but the idea that since I am not black or catholic or whatever I can’t speculate doesn’t seem right, either.

  9. Owen,

    The numbers may seem to add up, but they don’t. I don’t have time to debate it right now. Will say something about it upon my return. Must. Write.

  10. I seriously doubt it Alex, and I’ve written a term paper on this. You cannot find issues and characteristics outside of voting patterns where blacks are so monolithic. That being true, I don’t know what else there is to say. Still, I’ll hear your response.

  11. I doubt it Alex, and I’ve written a term paper on this subject. You cannot find polling of issues and characteristics that mimic the 9 to 1 voting patterns of blacks. That being the case, there is anything left to argue. Still, I’ll read your response when you post it.